Results from Florida’s second annual comprehensive study of alternatives to juvenile arrests – called “Stepping Up: Florida’s Top Juvenile Civil Citation Efforts 2016” – were recently released at a well-attended press conference in Tallahassee. Authored by one of Florida’s top juvenile civil citation experts, the study shows increasing the use of civil citations statewide up to 75% would enable law and order entities to invest up to $62 million in preventing and addressing felonies and serious crimes, as well as significantly improve life outcomes for nearly 7,000 arrested youth.
Philanthropists Joseph W. & Terrell S. Clark, along with the Jessie Ball duPont Fund, joined the Southern Poverty Law Center, ACLU and The Children’s Campaign to financially sponsor the study. Adding research support and awareness were the Florida State University Project on Accountable Justice, James Madison Institute and Florida PTA. Issue advocacy has included the Florida Juvenile Justice Association.
“This year’s study amplifies – in more depth and with more data – last year’s findings that civil citations increase public safety, improve youth outcomes and save taxpayer money,” said study author Dewey Caruthers, president of dewey & associates. “We are unable to find any data that shows arresting youth for common youth misbehavior instead of issuing civil citations is a good idea,” Caruthers said, noting the Stepping Up 2016 recommends law enforcement arrest only in rare and exceptional circumstances instead of issuing a civil citation.
The report actually goes further. It shows that counties which arrest youth rather than issue civil citations create more reoffenders due to higher recidivism rates.
Arrests generate worse results
The study reports that when comparing nine of the most common youth related offenses, arrests resulted in at least double the recidivism (reoffender) rate for seven of those offenses. For example, for vandalism, the civil citation recidivism rate is 3%, but it is 9% for post-arrest diversion; for marijuana possession, civil citation recidivism is 5%, but it is 10% for post-arrest; and for petit theft, recidivism is 3% and 7% respectively.
Three Florida counties are lagging behind
Stepping Up 2016 also reveals three counties – Duval, Hillsborough, Orange – were responsible for 24% of all arrests (totaling nearly 3,000) for common youth misbehavior in FY 2014-2015.
The study recognizes the state’s top-performing counties, school districts and law enforcement agencies, which are categorized by division based on eligible youth. The top-performing counties include Baker, Bay, Broward, Dade, Lafayette, Leon, Pinellas, Seminole, Marion, Monroe, Nassau, Union, Wakulla.
“These top-performing counties recognized by Stepping Up 2016 are the best in the state at not arresting youth for common youth misbehavior,” said Roy Miller, president of The Children’s Campaign, Florida’s leading child advocacy organization for juvenile justice reform. “Without a doubt, arrests close doors to youth for future education and employment. We are calling on all counties, school districts and law enforcement agencies to get on board and dramatically increase utilization rates.”
Three recommendations would dramatically increase utilization
The study lays out a plan of action to increase the use of civil citations:
- Supervisory review of arrests: Arrests of children should be documented and subject to supervisory review. This recommendation stops short of making civil citations mandatory. However, it does allow for the collection of needed data for the ongoing evaluation of civil citations statewide.
- Younger children’s misbehaviors should be handled differently: For some offenses with younger children, law enforcement should allow school officials and parents to handle their misbehaviors.
- Increased utilization statewide, but especially in three counties: Increasing the utilization rates in Duval, Hillsborough and Orange counties represents the biggest opportunity for dramatically increasing the civil citation utilization rate statewide.
The full report, a companion piece ranking the performance of each county, its school district and its law enforcement agencies and press conference coverage can be accessed at www.iamforkids.org/civilcitationreport.
This Top Story is brought to you by Karen Bonsignori, Roy Miller and Tiffany McGlinchey
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